A dozen years ago this week, an unprecedented run of hurricane and tropical storm activity affected Florida and the southeastern United States. It began with Hurricane Charley taking aim at Tampa Bay, realizing it wasn’t tourist season, then altering course for Disney World. This would be followed by Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances, which I believe actually square danced together across the Florida peninsula and, somewhere in this mix was Hurricane Ivan, which completed the “Devastate by Numbers” book on Florida which all baby tropical systems are given before hurricane season. That year was also chock full of intense news stories, human interest stories, fish tales, folk songs, and about ten million calls to power companies about downed lines, and countless calls to 911 operators about alligators and snakes in swimming pools. Here is a day-by-day account of all 40 days of the “Great Hurricane Throwdown of 2004.”
Day 1: Hurricane Charley attacks Florida with 140 MPH winds and knocks 30 journalists on their asses and blows them across parking lots in Port Charlotte. Charlotte County is devastated by the high winds and flooding, and homeowners living along US 17 begin to display festive blue tarps on rooftops.
Day 2: Hurricane Charley stops at Disney World, jumps on the Thunder Mountain Railroad, and throws up. Hurricane Frances begins forming the Atlantic Ocean, but is held back two classes when it’s revealed she can’t draw a straight line. Governor Jeb Bush declares the State of Emergency to remain in effect and calls an emergency session of the General Assembly to consider declaring “Home Repair for Dummies” the Official State Book.
Day 3: Officials for the Tampa Bay Times admit they could have handled Hurricane Charley “differently.” Charley is unavailable for comment and refers future questions to Hurricane Frances, who taking a course on orientation aboard the USS Bermuda Triangle.
Day 4: Governor Jeb Bush declares Day 4 to be the “Duct Tape Day,” and the General Assembly, while in Emergency Session, declares Duck Tape the Official State Adhesive.
Day 5: Frances manages to achieve the minimum requirements to be certified as an actual Hurricane, and begins to turn away from the Florida coastline. Home Depot futures plummet in heavy wood cutting.
Day 6: Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli is reported to have sold his soul to the Satan in exchange for a World Series Ring, but the conversation is garbled on his cellphone, as sources report the deal was actually for “Two More Storms and a Corrupt Governor to be named later!”
Day 7: Hurricane Frances nearly misses her exit in the Atlantic, and negotiates the tight turn back around to the Bee Line Expressway’s uncompleted part, which would connect Orlando to Atlantis. Frances makes landfall near Titusville, devasting several dozen hot dog stands and alligators.
Day 8: The Florida General Assembly, in an emergency meeting, passes a resolution that all residents are to cheer local power trucks as they come up to local apartment complexes. Citizens across the state enthusiastically hail the new law as “redundant.”
Day 9: Hurricane Frances, after hanging out too long at an Orlando nightclub, is tossed out unceremoniously, loses most of her power, and sputters offshore into the Gulf somewhere between Pinellas and Hernando Counties. When asked if Pasco County sustained damage, Governor Bush said “where?”
Day 10: Hurricane Ivan begins forming somewhere, but only people in Pensacola, Alabama, and southwest Georgia are really paying attention. The rest of the state is suffering a massive hangover.
Day 11: The University of Florida announces a new hurricane defense shield consisting of sticking the University of Georgia football team in the path of any storm, hoping their foul stench will repel anything Mother Nature throws at them.
Day 12: President George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush appear together somewhere in Florida, tour some houses, look at some blue tarps, and declare “Operation Enduring Hurricane Party.” Tequila futures spike in heavy margarita mixing.
Day 13: NASA sends Washington a message, but the message is lost when high winds knock down the CB antenna mounted on the back of the trailer. No hurricane can be connected to this, but Mission Control asks where “Aquarius” is for some reason.
Day `14: Hurricane Ivan begins bearing down on the Florida panhandle, and several thousand tourists are instructed to seek shelter in neighborhood bars and grills. Emergency drinking beer and liquor is shipped in by the casks, all at “low, low, low, rockbottom prices.”
Day 15: Governor Jeb Bush and the General Assembly, in a rare joint session, unanimously vote to play a round of “I Never.”
Day 16: Hurricane Ivan serves formal notice to Pensacola, Mobile, Fort Walton Beach, and Panama City of Intent to Make Landfall. Similar notices are served to Eufaula, Alabama, Albany, Georgia and Alpha Centauri.
Day 17: Meteorologists at the National Weather Service are stunned when they see a cloud pattern which closely resembles the University of Florida mascot forming over Athens, Georgia. One forecaster said “This does not bode well for the college football season.”
Day 18: Hurricane Ivan lashes the Florida panhandle, devastating bridges, roads, and beaches. The Florida General Assembly, when asked what they would do to ensure that the panhandle counties are given adequate relief and rebuilding, respond with a confident “Huh?”
Day 19: Governor Jeb Bush issues an executive order designating the Blue Tarp as the Official Florida Domicile Covering. Tarp futures rise in heavy….ah, screw it!
Day 20: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes to Florida, looks around, and says “oh, hell no!”
Day 21: Hurricane Jeanne begins to form someplace, but nobody notices. Tampa Bay music fans are devastated when Huey Lewis and the News are unable to perform their concert, and several threaten to begin singing Justin Timberlake songs to retaliate. Their blue tarps are immediately confiscated.
Day 22: News outlets across the state convened for the first ever Media Summit. They then deny this summit happened and instead focus all their resources on covering the plight of blue tarp activists.
Day 23: Governor Jeb Bush, in a stunning act of defiance, issues an executive order requiring insurance companies to actually pay claims.
Day 24: Hurricane Jeanne makes landfall in Florida…we think. Maybe not.
Day 25: The General Assembly issues a joint resolution declaring “Whatever” to be the Official State Comeback.
Day 26-33: Something happens involving blue tarps, people getting into fights with insurance companies and college football but, honestly, nobody really remembers or gives a damn. In fact, most of us are simply drunk off our collective asses at this point.
Day 34: A statewide crisis ensues when a rumor is floated of stores being completely out of duck tape.
Day 35: The City of Zephyrhills announces it still exists. Viagra futures spike in heavy yawning.
Day 36: Hurricane Jeanne is spotted somewhere over Pasco County. Police and first responders attempt to the coax the stubborn storm out using nude photographs of Jim Cantore, but the storm counters it’s just a photoshopped picture of Fat Bastard.
Day 37: President George W. Bush declares Florida to be in a “State of Emergency.” Florida residents everywhere shrug their shoulders and flip him off.
Day 38: Hurricane Jeanne finally relents, leaves Pasco County, and treads off into the Gulf never to be heard from again.
Day 39: News outlets across Tampa Bay hail the beginning of football season as the official end of Insane Hurricane Season.
Day 40: Florida residents everywhere throw their hands up and scream in unison, ‘WE QUIT!”